To Know Thyself: A closer look at holistic wellness through Ayurvedic principles
Many of us have heard of Ayurveda, but what exactly is it? Ayurveda is the “Science of Life”, one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world that has been gifted to us from the East. It is a 5,000 year old tradition from India that serves as a holistic approach of healing that incorporates all aspects of health: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Ayurveda is deeply rooted in the understanding that human beings are directly connected to the earth and its medicine, and therefore teaches us how to live in harmony with the cycles of nature. While Ayurveda is based on a profound spiritual connection with life itself, it is an incredibly valuable and practical system of medicine who’s main goal is to bring the body, mind and spirit into unification with one another.
At the foundation of Ayurveda lies the three doshas (constitutions): vata, pitta and kapha.
means “that which goes out of balance”. Therefore, we strive to maintain balance through the principles of “like increases like” and “opposites decrease each other” in regards to healing. Every human (and every plant, for that matter) contains all the doshas in varying degrees, although most of us are predominately one (or two) over the other. Here is a general synopsis of each dosha:
Vata - comprised of ether and air, vata is dry, cold and light. It physically manifests as dry skin and cracky joints, a general feeling of cold especially in the hands and feet, thin dry or curly hair, flat chests, thin body types, rough nails, etc. with ever-changing digestion prone to bouts of constipation, bloating and gas. Tendency towards malnourishment. Sleep cycles can lean towards insomnia. Vata people are highly creative, intelligent, active, sometimes restless and tire easily. Can be indecisive, tense, anxious, impatient, ungrounded or fearful when out of balance. This is the most powerful of the doshas, as it is the most difficult to bring to balance: aggravated vata is seen as the cause of the majority of disease.
Pitta - comprised of fire and water, pitta is hot, oily, sharp and mobile. It physically manifests in moderately framed individuals with soft skin that may be either well colored, prone to moles and freckles or red tinted. Hair is silky and well oiled, digestion is fast combined with a good appetite, and body is warm to the touch. Sleep is moderate and uninterrupted. Pitta people are quick, intelligent and energetic. Can tend towards anger, frustration, jealousy or over-ambitiousness when out of balance.
Kapha - comprised of water and earth, kapha is cold, damp and heavy. It physically manifests in well developed bodies that may lean towards excess weight. Skin is soft, oily and fair in complexion while hair is thick, dark and soft. Digestion may be slow but with a regular appetite. Sleep is deep, prolonged, or excessive. Kapha people are calm, slow, and loving. Can tend toward greed, attachment, envy, and possessiveness when out of balance.
Through understanding our body, mind and spirit through this perspective, we are more apt to discover the right herbs, diet and lifestyle choices for our constitution. For example, imagine a predominately vata
individual who’s stressed out and anxious, exhausted, with digestive issues and/or dry skin. This person may do very well with some nervines to support and calm down the nervous system (herbs), warm soups and stews with good oils high in EFAs to help nourish and support the digestive system (diet), and making time each day for self care rituals that could be as simple as a bubble bath, a walk in nature, or gentle yoga before bed (lifestyle). Thus, this is the foundation of holistic medicine: to not look only at the symp
tom, but to look at the sys
tem as a whole to determine the root of the problem. This is where true healing begins.
Mamie Wartelle is trained in holistic clinical herbalism, Ayurveda and the chakra system, and yoga. Mamie offers holistic herbal wellness consultations that focus on the four main areas of health: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. She is the owner of the budding business Chiron’s Apothecary and a new team member at WillowTree. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or come and find her at WillowTree!